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Despite this we stay- September 18, 2008

Open Range

by Carol Dunn

    In Colorado, landowners have the right to fence their land or leave it unfenced.  If you choose not to fence out your neighbor’s animals, then you are choosing for your land to be “open range."

    If you recently moved here, the tradition of “open range” seems pretty much one-sided in favor of people who raise cattle, horses and other ungulates.  If someone were to raise rhinoceroses, I suppose they would be included.  People new to the area must face the facts of open range and live with them.  Some of us had to learn that lesson the hard way.

    We are not horse people.  We know horse people, and we’ve ridden horses.  But we were sorely uneducated about horses until we moved to Huerfano County.  Our first home was a travel trailer parked on 41 acres of rangeland that we shared with eleven horses, two ponies, two colts and one donkey.  Initially, this was novel.  So earthy, living right among the animals.  So environmentally friendly.  Well, the horses taught us a lot in a few short weeks.  Probably the most important thing we learned is that horses gnaw on cars.  We learned this the hard way by leaving our “good” car parked next to the travel trailer and going away for two days.  You horse people are laughing right now.  You know what’s coming because you’ve seen it all before.  And now that I’ve seen the bite marks on Dave Stroh’s truck, I realize that no one is immune.

    Maybe the horses thought our car was too clean or that it needed some dents to fit into the community.  Whatever their motivation, sometime during the two days we were gone they evidently tried to climb up onto the hood and trunk, they took a bite out of the bug shield, they dented the doors on both sides and rubbed mud on them, they possibly ate the antenna because we never found it, they gnawed on both mirrors, and they smeared horse snot on the windows.  Why?  Probably because they could.  One can only imagine the conversation at the end of the day: 

    Donkey: Wow, you guys, this sure was fun!

    Brown Horse: The new people will really be impressed with the improvements.  Now it looks more like it belongs on a ranch.

    White Horse: Yeah, I like helping neigh-bors.

    Tan Pony: Are you sure they’ll like it?

    Paint: Are you kidding? You’d have to be an idiot from the city not to.  Let’s go eat some grass.

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